End Digestive Problems for Good

By , By Jill Provost, of Woman's Day
Between gas, constipation and acid reflux, digestive issues are among the most unpleasant ailments—and the touchiest topics to broach. But getting to the root of your problems can ease discomfort and allay embarrassing symptoms. Learn how to tame your tummy with these eight astounding facts about your digestive tract.

We really are what we eat.

Bacteria from our intestines influence our digestive tract’s health, according to Gerard Mullin, MD, professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and author of The Inside Tract: Your Good Gut Guide to Great Digestive Health. These friendly organisms break down hard-to-digest foods, produce nutrients and help keep harmful bacteria in check. When the balance of good guys versus bad falls out of whack—because of antibiotics, too much junk food or even stress—you can develop gas, bloating, constipation and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Too much bad bacteria is even linked to obesity, according to some research. Why? They stop the stomach from telling the brain it’s full. To keep your belly’s ecosystem thriving, eat plenty of fruit, vegetables and whole grains. These soluble fiber–rich foods stimulate good bacteria growth as they move through your intestines, giving you a healthy gut and immune system, says Dr. Mullin. Yogurt and probiotic supplements can also fortify your defenses.

When you’re stressed, your stomach is, too.

There’s a reason your belly clenches at the sound of bad news. Your gastrointestinal tract is directly wired to the nervous system, explains Dr. Mullin. When your body perceives danger, your nervous system shuts down blood flow to the stomach so it can direct all its energy toward self-defense, says Brenda Powell, MD, a physician at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. “When stress is chronic, the body releases inflammatory chemicals, which can break down the GI system’s lining and function,” she adds. To restore harmony, de-stress with meditation, exercise, yoga or spending time with supportive friends. And if you’re in the middle of a stress attack, take slow, deep belly breaths to calm down.

Even a lot of gas is normal.

Most people think they break wind more often than their neighbor, when in fact they aren’t setting any records. According to gastroenterologist Anish Sheth, MD, author of What’s Your Poo Telling You, the average person sounds the horn 14 to 23 times a day, releasing up to four pints of gas. Still, if flatulence is putting a damper on social gatherings, Dr. Sheth recommends refraining from beans, cabbage, apples, sweet potatoes, carrots, prunes and other foods high in soluble fiber (yes, those same ones that are good for your gut) for up to six hours before your outing. Or take a probiotic pill like Culturelle or Align.
Click here to learn more about ending digestive problems for good!

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    Did any of these tips surprise you? If so, which one(s)? Do you have any other tips to add?

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    Once I identified my triggers, I had a much better time with my health.

    Interesting article! I suffer from a different sort of digestion problem as a result of long term stress and I had frequent episodes of purging, at the height of it sometimes 3 -5 times per day. It's not Bulemia as the purging is completely involuntary. Itís more like IBS in that itís involuntary but the result is not constipation or diarrhea; it's pressure in my upper GI and purging. My doctor did a variety of tests, including blood-work to check for Celiac, endoscopy and x-rays but found nothing medically wrong with me. He determined it was a result of long-term stress and put me on a medication designed to speed up digestion which I was on for a very short time. Now, I try to avoid episodes by eating right, exercising regularly and minimizing stress, although acute stress and overeating at meals may still cause me to have episodes. Report
    Those ideas sound great, but what about when whole grains give you more gas and high fiber causes diarrhea? I've had the testing now for celiac, gluten intolerance and cancer and have also given up dairy for a month and nothing helped. I wish there was really a way to get a gut to behave. Report
    Since I began drinking my Shakeology once each day, I don't have any problems with bloating at all. It has in it all the nutrients needed to keep your system moving and to enable you to become regular. What a great feeling that was. In fact, I lost 20lbs, feel lighter and healthier. It has probiotics and all the nutrition you need. Report
    If anyone can help I would appreciate it!! I suffer severly with gas following eating potatoes it is not as bad if I eat rice or pasta can anyone explain why and what I maybe having a reaction too. I can actually watch my stomach start to bloat. I also get a lot of heart burn but I put that down to the fact I still have sugar (which I just don't seem to be able to give up)!! I find if I stick to an all protein diet my problems go but I find it very difficult knowing what to eat all the time. Report
    I know that about 2 - 3 after I've been stressed I'll be constipated and have IBS. I'll also have a dreadfully itchy and flaky scalp. What I didn't know until joining SparkPeople is that stress also affects diabetes really badly. My GP could do with joining SparkPeople for the education he'd receive! Report
    After starting a grain-free nutritional plan, all the digestive upsets I had experienced for years disappeared, including bloating, pain, gas and acid reflux - it has been months since I have been afflicted by any of those conditions, except of the one time I ate pasta. Something to consider - the results were changes were almost immediate. Report
    Most of my gas comes from cheese.

    Yep, I'm a lactose intolerant cheese-a-holic.

    Ah well. Gotta have our vices, right? At least it keeps me regular... Report
    I have always had a high nutrient diet, but couldn't shake the acid reflux. On a recent trip to India, I took a probiotic supplement to aid prevention of any food borne illnesses. I noticed my acid reflux didn't occur once while I was overseas. Now I take a probiotic supplement every single day and I have ceased having acid reflux. Report
    I suffered for YEARS of constipation that nothing would cure - laxatives, veggies, exercise... you name it! I also had a hive on the back of my thigh that came up in the same, exact spot and left a purple scar. Turns out I am gluten intolerent. Also, from all of the years of laxatives, I was also potassium deficient. Due to the damage from years of eating gluten, now I suffer from nutritional deficiencies. Not having enough potassium will cause your gut to stop as well, so now I avoid gluten like the plague and eat lots of fruits and veggies (especially mushrooms). Blackstrap molasses is also VERY helpful because it has all of the nutrients I have a hard time absorbing - potassium, magnesium, and calcium. I hope my experience can help someone else! :) Report
    I would also like to add, I tried all of these tips and still had severe bloating and diaherria. I ended up seeing my doctor and found out I have Celiac , a wheat intolerance. I want to tell everyone dont wait as long as I did to get professional help if you have tried all the tips and still are in pain. I am feeling so much better ow that I eat gluten free. Report
    A few weeks ago, I started having acid reflux after eating anything spicy or acidic. I tried a medication where you take a pill every day for 2 weeks, and it didn't help at all. A few family members suggested I eat an apple every day, and so far it's worked! I haven't had nearly as much indigestion, heartburn and acid reflux. Report
    I agree that our gut is extremely important in good health. I just despair when the answer is always "take a pill". There is a lot of probiotic food out there, fermented food with digestive enzymes and "good" bacteria, like sauerkraut and kimchee. Just a little with a meal is even better than taking a supplement probiotic. Google "theconsciouslife.com/top-probiotic
    -foods.htm" Report
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